The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

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Part 1, Chapters 15-17 Summary

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It is almost a year later. Illusionists from all over the world have come to a theater in London to audition for a position. In the midst of the applicants is a young girl. She is the only female there, and many people mistake her for a clerk, as if she were there to help in the audition. She has no props, such as cages of birds; she has no trunk; and she is not wearing a cape, as most of the other illusionists are. She pays no attention to any of the others although they are obviously staring at her. Not only is she female, she is also very young.

One by one, each illusionist is called up to the stage to perform. One by one, each is dismissed. Finally, Marco calls out number twenty-three, which is the girl’s number. When she rises from her seat, Marco cannot take his eyes off her. When she is standing in front of him, Marco cannot remember what he is supposed to be doing. Her beauty is radiant and her near presence is having a profound effect on him.

The only people sitting in the audience are Chandresh and Ana Padva (the retired ballerina from the Circus Dinner parties). Chandresh has his feet propped up on the seat in front of him. Ana Padva attempts to stifle a yawn. It has been a long day.

Marco walks out onto the stage, and the young girl follows. Ana Padva smiles at her. Chandresh sits up and asks, “What is this?” He suggests that the girl must have made a mistake. He tells her that they are in the process of auditioning illusionists. The girl confirms that she is aware of this. Ana Padva asks Chandresh if there is something wrong with this contestant. Chandresh questions whether it is appropriate for a girl to perform. Padva reminds him of the female contortionist. Chandresh continues to question the girl’s appearance. He also points out that her sleeves are so big, she could hide all sorts of gadgets and tricks in them. Hearing this, the girl removes the puffed-sleeved jacket she had been wearing. Chandresh then gives his consent for her to perform.

The girl first tells her name, Celia Bowen. She responds to Marco’s other questions, saying that she has never performed publically but that she was trained by her father, who was known as Prospero the Enchanter. At this, Chandresh becomes very interested.

Celia bends down, picks up her jacket from the floor, and flings it out over the seats in the audience. The jacket is transformed into a raven. She then asks to borrow the notebook in which Marco has been writing. Celia also throws the notebook into the audience, and it turns into a dove. Chandresh is so impressed, he is ready to sign a contract with Celia. When Ana Padva points out that Celia will have to obtain gowns that match the black-and-white color theme of the circus, the gown that Celia is wearing changes from green to black.

After Celia’s audition, Marco knows who his opponent is. The mere presence of Celia has shaken him. Her exquisite performance made him feel worse. She is too good, he thinks. Marco also realizes that the circus is somehow intricately tied into their challenge. But he still has no idea how he and Celia are to compete. At home, as he talks this over with his girlfriend, Isobel offers to apply for a position as fortuneteller with the circus. In this way, she can keep an eye on Celia and report back to...

(This entire section contains 759 words.)

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At the end of Part One, the story jumps ahead in time to 1901 and returns to Bailey, who is now fourteen years old. He has been arguing with his father, who wants Bailey to give up his ideas about college and learn how to take over the management of their farm. Bailey is dissatisfied with his prospects. He does not want to spend his life on the family farm. It is in this mood that Bailey wanders outside to a special tree he has been climbing since he was much younger. He has stored a special box there in which he keeps his personal treasures. The item he is most proud of is the white glove. As he thinks about the circus and the girl he met there so many years ago, he looks up and almost loses his balance when he sees, across the field, that circus has returned after all these years.


Part 1, Chapters 12-14 Summary


Part 2, Chapters 1-3 Summary